It’s been over 7 years since I became financially independent, and I’ve been reflecting on the big question: Was it worth it?
My thoughts have evolved since I recorded my podcast episode 5 Years After FI (itunes | spotify). But now after 7 years I can finally answer this question and say, yes, it was worth all of the tradeoffs.
When you make a choice to pursue FI, you make a choice to invest in a person you have yet to become.
When I started my journey, I was only 25 years old. I knew I couldn’t spend the next 20 or 30 years working for a paycheck. But would retiring in 5 years be worth the tradeoffs I’d need to make to get there? Would I regret sacrificing my late twenties, so I no longer had to trade my time for money? Would my life be that much better?
I used to mourn that period of my life – when all my friends were having fun, going out, and living it up while I was heads-down building my business. This past year, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my FI tracking app Topia.
My co-founder and team members are all in their twenties, and I see the same intensity, passion, and ambition in them as I had at that age. I sometimes wonder what my life might have been like if I hadn’t traded all that time for money. Would I have been happier if I had dialed down the intensity by 10 or 20 percent? I’ll never know, but the benefits have been far greater than I imagined.
Achieving FI has de-risked my life tremendously. I used to make every decision based on money, but now I don’t have to factor it in if I don’t want to. What’s most important is, do I enjoy the challenge? Do I like who I work with? Does this make me feel alive?
Regardless of where you are in your journey, as you move into this new year, I urge you to reflect on the freedom you already have. What are you really seeking and how can you move towards it right now? Are the tradeoffs you’re making still worth it? Is there something you’ve wanted to do and have been putting off? If so, why?
I encourage you to spend your time in a way that increases your freedom and gives you a greater sense of peace. Thankfully, as we see with the Great Resignation, labor movements across the country, and calls for increased flexibility–all around us, people who still have to trade their time for money are taking advantage of the freedom they already have.
How can you balance tradeoffs for the future with the freedom of the present?
After selling my website in 2020 and buying it back in 2022, the past two years have been periods of rest and recalibration for me. Now, going into 2023, I’m ready to start growing again.
All the significant market signals are flashing red, saying we’re going to enter a recession in 2023. Even if this doesn’t happen, or even if it’s not as bad as predicted, businesses will no doubt tighten to prepare for the worst.
Don’t let fear or uncertainty distract you. Recessions are the best times to build and experiment. There will be deals everywhere – from stocks to real estate to websites to small businesses.
2023 is going to be the year to buy, try, and build.
Since moving to Ohio from NYC two years ago, I’ve seen more and more investment opportunities that are different from things I’ve invested in in the past. As a result, I’m looking to invest in small physical businesses that I’ve never considered.
Now that I’m putting down roots, I’m looking for opportunities to invest in my community so my family and neighbors can thrive here for as long as possible. I’m trying new things and taking risks because I can–and because the market is ripe for investment. I just really love creating and building things.
In the past six months alone, I’ve evaluated buying an HVAC company, a tree-removal service, a gas station, and a commercial warehouse space. Commercial real estate has dropped in value tremendously over the past few years as more of our lives have moved online. This makes properties cheaper to buy and gives investors like me room to imagine new and creative uses.
As I write this, I’m considering buying an old plastic bottle manufacturing factory. Even though I haven’t officially signed the paperwork, I already imagine what I could do with the space.
When others see trouble, look for opportunities. They are always there. Recession or not, we’re on the brink of the largest wealth transfer in history as Baby Boomers, who collectively own small businesses worth nearly $10 trillion, look to sell their businesses and retire. Who are they selling them to? Us. The next generation.
Now is the time to keep an eye out for discounts on opportunities you may have never considered.
One of my favorite resources is BuyBizSell. This is Zillow for businesses. They list more than 65,000 businesses all over the country for sale each year and allow you to search by region and industry. It is a great way to surface businesses I would never have thought of before and to dig into the economics of those businesses.
Maybe you’ve never considered buying a vending-machine company or landscaping company until you realize your local one nets a 70% profit and is only open a few days a week. I’m open to evaluating any business, except for restaurants, because I don’t have that skill set, and they’re highly risky. Some other websites where businesses near you are for sale check out LoopNet, and Acquire.
I’m also looking to buy more websites in the coming year, as website valuations have dropped and I know there are great deals to be found. There are now four websites in my MMG Media Group portfolio, and I’m hunting for new sites every day since I have a replicable framework to buy, build, scale, and sell sites. If you’re interested in acquiring websites, check out the TheWebsiteFlip’s deal feed tool, as well as EmpireFlippers and QuietLight for more premium listings.
Over the past year, my sense of opportunity, creativity, and flexibility has expanded exponentially.
While pursuing FI, I could only see the top of the FI ladder, but once I got to the top, I discovered that I could see an entirely new world. Now 7 years in, I see more opportunities to make money while also expanding my life in ways I never thought possible.
I have no illusions about becoming the next Warren Buffet (or even a real desire to), but now that I have so much more freedom than I ever imagined when I was 25, it would be a shame not to consider all the possibilities there are to make the most of this one life.
As we head into 2023, I’m excited to share this next phase of my journey with you. I hope, in doing so, it becomes a year of growth, peace, and expansion for all of us.
This post originally appeared in my Millennial Money newsletter, which you can sign up for here.
Grant Sabatier writes about money, mindfulness, and financial independence – all with the ultimate goal of helping you build a life you love.
His story and ideas have been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, CNBC, Business Insider, and many other places.